Amber Benson’s The End of Magic lives up to its name, wrapping up the Echo Park Coven trilogy without necessarily answering every question.
(Note: Although this review will refer to the ending of Amber Benson’s The End of Magic, it will not reveal the ending itself, merely describe how the ending impacts the work as a whole.)
When one reaches the end of a trilogy of novels, it often seems like an author feels pressure to have everything come out right in the end. Granted, we as readers often expect a properly happy ending for genre fiction. But Amber Benson’s The End of Magic has such an ominous title that the ending rather fits.
The End of Magic follows Lyse MacAllister and the rest of her blood sisters (or, to use the term that you may be more familiar with, witches) as they attempt to stop The Flood from taking over the world, which would be, you know, bad. Half of the problem is that they’re not quite sure how to do it.
Over the past two books, The Witches of Echo Park and The Last Dream Keeper, Benson had created an immensely complex system of magic that incorporated all sorts of different traditions into a syncretic kind of magic. Here, she manages to finally pull things back together and turn out a good ending, one that gets 3.5/5 stars from yours truly.
It is really hard not to discuss what makes The End of Magic good without discussing its ending, because it’s there that Benson makes the trilogy’s story really settle into place. The last section of the novel as a whole rewards readers who had paid attention to clues left behind throughout the previous novels. It may not be necessarily what readers expect, but after putting the book down, it’s hard to deny that Benson’s choices make sense. Kudos to her for choosing the route she did.
Additionally, as in the previous two novels, due to the multiple viewpoints, she deploys cliffhanger-esque endings to nearly every chapter. Instead of fatiguing a reader, though, it’s hard to deny that it doesn’t keep one pushing forward to circle back around to Lyse, Niamh, Arrabelle, Daniela, and the rest of the sisters who have point-of-view chapters. In a book like this, where there’s plenty of action, it certainly helps maintain the pace.
On the whole, Benson’s choices on what to resolve and what not to resolve actually also make sense. A little ambiguity goes a long way, especially in the world she’s created where secrets are pretty much always a factor. (Who doesn’t like a few dramatic reveals, though?)
Unfortunately, pulling so many disparate elements together does require quite a bit of explanation, both of characters’ feelings and the systems in which they’re operating. Benson’s text walks a fine line, but coming straight from the other two books, it felt a touch on the side of too much. For those who are picking this up with some distance between reading The Last Dream Keeper and this book, it likely works better. Frankly, it’s by no means a deal-breaker, because trying to figure out what’s going on without some of those reminders probably would have made the reading experience worse.
The End of Magic — and the two preceding novels — make up a pretty great set of urban fantasy works that don’t hesitate to get a little weird, which is practically the point of urban fantasy in this reviewer’s eyes. None of them are too terribly long, so if you’re looking for something to read this coming summer or during a weekend trip, give them a shot.
The End of Magic is on shelves now.